From July 28 to August 1, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a series of public hearings nationwide on the Clean Power Plan. Proposed in May 2014 by the EPA, the Clean Power Plan would cut 30 percent of carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 2030 through the regulation of currently operating power plants. The hearings, which were held in Atlanta, Denver, and Washington, DC, on July 29 and July 30, and in Pittsburgh on July 31 and August 1, were an opportunity for various parties to express their ideas, and comment on the plan. In total, there were more than 1,600 scheduled speakers for the hearings. Various groups, including environmental and industry groups, held rallies outside the public hearings to have their voices heard.

EPA received praise as well as criticism for its Clean Power Plan. Most of the criticism came from coal industry leaders and Republicans, who are concerned about economic development and job creation. John Pippy, CEO of the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance, said, “This regulatory attempt to displace coal will have profound and sweeping consequences, not just on the coal industry and its workers, but also on those communities that host coal-fired power plants, those employed at these facilities and every ratepayer who depends upon the reliable provisioning of electricity at competitive rates.” In Pittsburgh, members of the United Mineworkers of America (UMWA) union organized rallies to protest the EPA’s proposed regulations. Mark Sunyak, a retired mineworker who attended the rally, said, “I’m a recent retiree, my benefits may be in jeopardy [with the rule].” Mike Zimmerman, a foreman at northwestern Colorado’s Twentymile Mine, spoke at a rally with Americans for Prosperity in Pittsburgh on July 31. He said, “They [EPA officials] are basically trying to shut down coal, which takes away my job.”

Environmental groups and some business groups expressed support for the Clean Power Plan. Supporters said the health and wellbeing of future generations is one of their biggest concerns. Patricia DeMarco, a biologist and senior scholar at Chatham University, spoke at the hearings in Pittsburgh, “While the change from an energy system entrenched for 200 years seems daunting, the consequences of continuing this pattern of energy use are surely devastating both to the atmosphere and to the fresh water system, for us and especially for our children and their grandchildren.” Jaime Travis, participating in a rally sponsored by Colorado Moms Know Best, said, “It [implementing the rule] won't be painless. But as a mother, I am truly worried about the future, not just of my state, but the country and the world.” In addition, some business groups also stood up for the regulations. Business Forward, a business group representing big corporations such as Ford Motor Co. and Google Inc., organized a conference call with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on July 24 to give its members a chance to discuss and show support for EPA’s actions to combat climate change.

Some environmental advocates stated that EPA’s Clean Power Plan was not radical enough. Stanley Sturgill, a retired coal miner, said at the Denver hearings, “The rule does not do nearly enough to protect the health of the front-line communities . . . We're dying, literally dying, for you to help us.” Kevin Stewart, director of environmental health for the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic, said EPA should regulate more than just power plants. At the Pittsburgh hearings he said, “We are in the midst of a slow-motion crisis of global proportions. The objective here must not be one of doing the minimum necessary to meet some arithmetic goal, but rather one of finding ways to do as much as possible to reduce the severity of the impacts already on their way.”

Although the public hearings have ended, EPA is accepting comments on the Clean Power Plan for three more months, until October 16, 2014. So far, the EPA has received more than 300,000 written comments. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said, “We know the purpose of this rule is so important, and that’s why we’ve been so focused on the process.” EPA expects the Clean Power Rule to be finalized by June 2, 2015.


Author: Yi Xu